Jupiter was pictured this month (left) looking unusually bare, compared to July 2009 (right). Ithas lost its dark red Southern Equatorial Belt although scientists are unclear as to why. The pictures have different tones because they were snapped a year apart.
Journalist and amateur astronomer Bob King, also known asAstro_Bob, was one of the first to note the strange phenomenon.
He said: 'Jupiter with only one belt is almost like seeing Saturnwhen its rings are edge-on and invisible for a time - it just doesn'tlook right.'
It is not the first time this unusual phenomenon has been noticed.Jupiter loses or regains one of its belts every ten of 15 years,although exactly why this happens is a mystery.
EnlargeJupiter has a complex belt system
The planet is a giant ball of gas and liquid around 500million milesfrom the Sun. It's surface is composed of dense red, brown, yellow,and white clouds arranged in light-coloured areas called zones anddarker regions called belts.